Vatican City, 6 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the presence of the Holy Father, the First General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of new evangelisation” took place in the Synod Hall. The Pope greeted the Synod Fathers and all the collaborators in the Synod – the relators, consultors, translators and all those “who have worked with dedication, patience and competence, for long months, reading and working on the themes, texts and the work of this Extraordinary General Assembly”.
Today I also thank you, dear cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, priests, men and women religious and laypersons for your presence and your participation that enriches the works and the spirit of collegiality and synodality for the good of the Church and families. … You bring the voice of the particular Churches, gathered at the level of the local Churches through the Episcopal Conferences. The universal Church and the particular Churches are of divine institution; the local Churches, understood in this way, are of human institution. You will bring this voice in synodality. It is a great responsibility: bring the reality and problems of the Churches to help them to walk the path of the Gospel of the family”.
“A general basic condition is this: speak clearly. Let no one say, 'this can't be said, they will think this or that about me'. Everything we feel must be said, with parrhesia. After the last Consistory in February 2014, which focused on the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying that it was a pity that some cardinals did not have the courage to say certain things out of respect for the Pope, thinking perhaps that the Pope thought differently. This is not good – it is not synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that in the Lord we feel must be said: without human respect, without timidness. And, at the same time, we must listen with humility and accept with an open heart all that our brothers say. With these two attitudes, synodality is achieved”.
“Therefore, I ask of you”, insisted Francis, “these two attitudes of brothers in the Lord: speak with parrhesia and listen with humility. And do so with great tranquillity and peace, because the Synod always takes place 'cum Petro et sub Petro', and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a protection of faith”.
At the end the Holy Father's brief address and that of Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France, presiding at the session, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, gave a presentation of the various stages in the preparation of this Extraordinary Assembly, the number of participants, the novelties and the work of the Secretariat of the Synod following the last Ordinary General Assembly held in October 2012 under the papacy of Benedict XVI. He concluded by expressing the hope that this Synod may be “a privileged space for this synodal collegiality, that proclaims the Gospel while walking its path. May it be permeated by a new openness to the Spirit, by a method and a style of life and witness that guarantee unity in diversity, apostolicity in Catholicity”. Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and relator general of the Synod, went on to read the “Relatio ante disceptationem”, summarised in the following article.